Grace and peace to you, in the name of Jesus Christ.
As you may have heard, Toronto Conference, the Rev. Gretta Vosper, and West Hill United Church have reached a settlement on the issues between them. I am thankful for all of the work that has been done by these groups to find resolution.
Although I’ve been Moderator for only a few months, it has been clear from the contacts made with the General Council Office that there are a variety of feelings about the Rev. Vosper’s ministry in the context of The United Church of Canada.
In a letter to the church in 2016, my predecessor, the Very Rev. Jordan Cantwell, reminded us that “at the heart of the concerns being raised is a tension between two core values, both of which are central to our identity as The United Church. The first is our faith in God. The second is our commitment to being an open and inclusive church.” The dance between these core values, how they interact with and inform each other, is one that we continue to explore as followers of Jesus and children of the Creator.
At the 41st General Council, through the remit process that went to all of the congregational decision-making bodies and presbyteries, The United Church of Canada expanded the articulation of its belief as a denomination. It did this by adding three additional statements—A Statement of Faith, A New Creed, and A Song of Faith—to stand alongside the Twenty Articles of Doctrine. While each of these statements says it differently, it is clear that as a denomination we believe in God: Creator, Christ, and Spirit, and that that belief leads us deeper into the Holy Mystery that is God, “beyond complete knowledge, above perfect description.” At the 43rd General Council, we accepted that communities of faith, regional councils, and the General Council are all charged with “living in covenant with Mother Earth and All My Relations in the Earth community.” We celebrate that all of this allows for a wideness of expression and articulation of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ and a child of the Creator in The United Church of Canada in the 21st century!
As a Christian church, we continue to expect that ministers in The United Church of Canada will offer their leadership in accordance with our shared and agreed upon statements of faith, celebrating the sacraments, and praying that all who are part of the denomination will help people to love, as Jesus put it, “God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27, NRSV).
I believe that God continues to call us to be people who love and, in that love, to be communities of faith where all are welcome, whatever you believe or don’t believe. To do this, we’re going to need to listen carefully to one another, to ask questions of one another, to support one another’s journey of faith and life by lifting each other up.
I hope that people across the church will join me in holding the Rev. Gretta Vosper, the congregation of West Hill United Church, and Toronto Conference in our prayers. May we work together to mend the Creator’s hurting world, to celebrate Christ’s ever-loving presence, and to be pushed to new places by the Holy Spirit’s call.
The Right Rev. Richard Bott
Moderator, The United Church of Canada